Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year's Eve Family Interview

I never really enjoyed New Year's Eve as a younger person, but a few years ago we found a way to make it a fun family holiday, and since then I've enjoyed it much more! Every year we have our own special tradition on New Year's Eve involving a series of easy, at home activities and treats. Each activity or treat is hidden within a paper bag. You can read more about our New Year's Eve Bags for the Whole Family here.

Last year, one of our activities involved a quick family interview. It became an instant hit with everyone, even Daddy. We liked it enough that this year I've created a new, cuter printable version that we can use again and share with others!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Wrapping Paper Origami

Big Brother is in a phase where he loves paper folding crafts - paper airplanes, origami, and more. He got both an origami and a paper airplane kit from different relatives over the holiday weekend. He's been excited to dig into both - and while each kit came with paper, it won't be long until we run out.

Luckily I quickly realized that we have lots of colorful paper still on hand - used wrapping paper!

I always feel a little sad about how quickly the wrapping paper is unwrapped and then discarded by the kiddos on Christmas morning. And while I try to save some of the bigger pieces for another year, two eager unwrapping kiddos can make that tricky. Which means it's always great to find some easy crafts for the used paper instead. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Tree Quesadilla

With just a few days to go until Christmas, the energy and anticipation are both on high at our house. I find during these times one of the best things to do is add quick, small bursts of fun into our day to help keep everyone distracted.

A few years ago I came up with these pretty simple Christmas Tree Quesadillas. They are perfect for a fast dinner or lunch in the lead up to Christmas. And they add just a small dose of fun to keep people positive.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Easy Button Tree Card

A few days ago I came up with this Easy Button Tree card for a quick evening project. And it just came out too cute not to officially share it.
It took just a few minutes to prepare, and the kids were able to put together a few cards pretty quickly. They'll use them later this month for teachers and other special friends.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Polar Bear Ornament

As a blogger, it's always so fun to participate in a blog series with other bloggers as you get so many new ideas! That's how I've felt checking out all of the posts in the 10 Days of Kid-Made Ornament series hosted by Mama Miss. Every day it's been running I've found another idea that I love. And even better, all the ornaments are based on books so I've also found several books I'm looking forward to reading too!

For our post in the series we were excited to create an ornament inspired by the book "Santa Claus and the Three Bears."
 Of course a polar ornament, or more specifically making sure we had at least three polar bears, seemed like a great ornament fit.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Host A Kid-Made Ornament Party

One of my favorite things about this time of year is all of the traditions we celebrate as a family. Some of the traditions my husband and I had as children and now share with the boys. Other traditions we've made as a young family together and they are something we can all look forward to.

But as we honor our old traditions, it's always fun to try something new too. And often that is what leads to a discovering something that will become a new tradition. This past weekend we hosted our first "Kid-Made Ornament Party" and it was so much fun - it might just become a new annual tradition.

On a chilly Sunday we invited a handful of young friends (ages 3 to 8) over along with their parents and we encouraged the kids to get crafty and creative with a table full of ornament making materials. For this post we were lucky enough to work with The Oriental Trading Company who sent most of the supplies for review.  However, the opinions and ideas in the post are all our own. We're excited to share some of the things the kids came up with when given a range of awesome project materials! 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Cork Christmas Trees

Through most of our Thanksgiving break one (or both) of the boys were fighting some kind of bug. Not so fun for a holiday weekend, but on the other hand it did mean we got some much needed downtime at home.

On one of the days it was clear we needed something fun and festive to perk us up, which is why I pulled out the materials for these Cork Christmas Trees.

They were a quick, easy to assemble craft that definitely has us thinking about Christmas already. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

The season for pumpkin flavored treats is almost over, as the winter holiday baking season is fast approaching.

But, before it goes I wanted to share one last yummy treat. (Although I have to admit I love these enough to make them all year round.) I was introduced to pumpkin cookies several years ago through our Farm-to-School program. Over the years I've made a few tweaks to settle on this final recipe.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Turkey Name Plate

With Thanksgiving Day quickly approaching the last few weeks have brought some opportunities to play with turkeys.

This Turkey Name Plate activity proved to be a fun way for Little Brother to practice spelling his name while getting in the seasonal mood.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Veterinary Clinic Imaginary Play

It's always fun to mix up the boys' imaginary play by adding in a few extra props. Recently they've been playing with their stuffed animals more, so I decided to help them set up a Veterinary Clinic in the playroom for the day.

Before playing I put together a short "Veterinary Check-Up" sheet that the boys could use to keep track of their patients. Although we gathered several other toys together, this extra prop was really fun for the boys to add into the play. I made several copies so they could take in several patients during the day. 

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Painted Pumpkins

This was a great rainy day activity a few weeks ago on a dreary Saturday afternoon. And although we did it as a lead up to Halloween, it would also be a great way to use any pumpkins that were not carved on Halloween.

Another great part of this activity is that it can be enjoyed by a variety of ages. We painted the pumpkins with our cousins, so the age range on this activity day were one 3 year old, two 6 year olds, and one 10 year old. Everybody took it to their own level and everyone loved their finished product. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Jack O'lantern Suncatcher

Still looking for some quick and easy Halloween projects? This Jack O'lantern Suncatcher is not too messy and is quick to put together.

Little Brother and I enjoyed making it recently and we love the Halloween color it adds to our window!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Fall Scavenger Hunt

On this chilly and rainy weekend, it's hard to remember back a week to the gorgeous fall days we've been having up until now. But, really, we've been pretty lucky this fall season. We've had so many incredible weather days.

It was on one of these beautiful days that the boys and I took a quick walk up a local trail after school. As we hiked we used this printable scavenger hunt to collect some fun fall items! 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Painting with Tennessee Dancing Gourds

It's that time of year when there's all sorts of fun fall materials around that are perfect for a variety of different projects. We love finding new ways to use different materials. So we were excited to be given a handful of these "Tennessee Dancing Gourds" grown in my school gardens.

The boys love how the gourds can spin like a top, they really get some great motion when they get going. Watching them spin gave me a great idea for painting. 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Science Tool Kit - A Homemade Gift

We gave this gift a while ago to a good friend of ours, but I loved how it turned out so much I couldn't resist sharing it with you too!

Over the summer our friend became really interested in science experiments, which lead to the creation of this homemade science tool kit for his birthday. We based several of the gift ideas on the activities we had done during our Science Week.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Red Leaf Suncatcher

September flew by - the return to school, the beginning of soccer season and gymnastics classes, and weekends full of birthday parties and family gatherings meant that we barely had time to be home. You may have noticed that we were pretty quiet on the blog during the month of September. Although we did have a little time to play, create, and learn our focus mostly pulled us in other directions.

So this week, when things finally calmed down, we were excited to wind up with an extra home day. Some beautiful weather and the arrival of the foliage season pulled us outside. 

While we were outside we found ourselves collecting tiny, red maple leaves off the ground. They were the perfect size for a paper plate suncatcher project. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Apple Spiced Playdough

It was definitely time to make up a new batch of playdough, and with the new season arriving I was inspired to create a play experience that reminded us of fall.

One of my favorite parts of autumn is all the great scents that come along with the season. In the past we've used some of those same great scents to create Pumpkin Spice Playdough and Fall Spice Playdough. But this time I wanted to create something that reminded us of apples - we're in the mood for apple picking and all sorts of yummy apple treats - but we just haven't had a free weekend lately. The trick was how could I make the playdough smell fruity and spicy at the time?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Pirate Treasure Sensory Bin & Letter Map Match

It's no secret that we love all things pirate around here, so when we saw the chance to join in on the "International Talk Like a Pirate Day" Quirky Blog Hop we couldn't resist. International Talk Like a Pirate Day is actually coming up on September 19th, but today Witty Hoots is hosting this Quirky Blog Hop so bloggers can share lots of fantastic pirate fun to start getting everyone in the mood!

For our pirate activity, we decided to explore the world of pirates with a little bit of letter learning thrown in too! To make the learning as hands on as possible, we put all the materials into a sensory bin.

Pirate themed learning is always fun, and you'll notice at the bottom of this post several other pirate learning posts we've shared before.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Outer Space Week (A Simple Summer Theme)

It's hard to imagine that we've already been into the routine of school a few weeks and that these Simple Summer Themes are slipping far behind us.

We were so excited about Outer Space Week, that when the first week was cut short the boys asked me if we could do more - and we extended it to a second week.

The boys are always thrilled to explore activities and projects around Outer Space. They love to play astronaut in the back yard and read books from our outer space book collection. A few years ago we had a blast with Big Brother's Outer Space Birthday Party, and we were able to use a lot of those activities again.  

Monday, September 5, 2016

Focus: September Monthly Goals

I've always considered myself a pretty amazing multitasker - I've even prided myself on how many projects I can have going on at "once." When brain research came out a few years ago claiming that people officially can't multitask, I completely didn't agree with it. Of course people can multitask- moms and teachers do it 100 times a day. 

Coming out of a summer season where I purposefully tried to keep parts of our summer simple, I was a little bummed to have it end with a big rush of busyness into the new school year. The residual effects of relaxing summer moments amped up into the constant routine of trying to balance too many things and feeling stressed. It's made me realize something: I need to get a little more proactive about "focusing." 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Astronaut Training Course

The boys always love chances to test their gross motor skills, and the Astronaut Training Course we put together is a perfect activity to do just that!

Obstacles courses of any kind are a great way to create a little fun in the yard, or if you have enough space - inside on a rainy day. Give the Obstacle Course a theme and a have kids complete something at the end - even better! This obstacle course post includes 2 free printables- a training checklist and an astronaut id card at the end! 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Paper Bag Space Helmets

It's hard to believe that this week we're wrapping up summer, but I am having a lot of fun looking through all the fun things we did these last few months. And, after making sure we keep summer simple, I'm still putting together some posts about it all!

These Paper Bag Space Helmets are a simple activity I've always loved doing with kids. A while back we made them at Big Brother's Outer Space Birthday Party, but I also made them with preschoolers years ago in my early days of teaching.

The day the kids made them this summer it proved to be a perfect summer activity - we had all the materials on hand and the kids had a blast playing in the yard with them afterwards. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Forest Week (A Simple Summer Theme)

Among all of our Simple Summer Theme Weeks, this has to be one of the favorite ones so far. We're pretty lucky to live with a giant woods area right behind our house so we didn't have to travel far - yet each time we went into the woods I felt our energy change as a group.

In fact, the boys have continued to ask to go into the woods many other times this summer so that they can repeat some of the activities.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Stick Painting

We've done this project a few times this summer and I just love how they turn out every time, even though they are always a little different. Originally I had imagined they would look like trees as the kids painted them, but instead they always turn out a little more abstract.

But I also love how they are art created using found objects in nature which adds to their simplistic appeal. The materials are simple enough for many different age levels to explore!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Pool Noodle Olympic Ring Painting

We've always enjoyed the Olympics, but this year the kiddos are especially fascinated by them. Big Brother has been asking to watch them all week! On top of watching them, this past week we've been exploring some different ideas and projects for "Olympic Week" in our Simple Summer Theme series.

The other afternoon I wanted something fun to do that wouldn't take a lot of set up and was trying to think of a way we could create the Olympic Rings.

Although I'd seen the toilet paper roll ring prints, I realized that pool noodle pieces would also make great tools for printing circles!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Forest Scavenger Hunt (with free printable)

A few weeks ago we really enjoyed "Forest Week" in our Simple Summer Theme weeks. For the most part the boys truly just loved getting outside into the forest - which meant we could really keep things simple. (Which was in fact one of our July Monthly Goals.)

To kick off "Forest Week" on our first adventure into the woods the boys worked on this Forest Scavenger Hunt as we walked through the woods.

No only was this a great way to begin exploring the forest, it also gave us good opportunities to discuss textures and colors. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Connect (August Monthly Goals 2016)

Anyone who is with a long term partner and has children knows that connecting amid parenting is hard. This coming month my husband and I will have been married 8 years, although we've been together much longer than that.

There is not another person in the world I would rather share this journey with. We met as teenagers, grew with each other for several years, and in our mid-twenties eagerly took on the challenges of creating a home and family together. We both acknowledge that marriage is a journey that requires commitment and flexibility. With all the requirements in life; (Kids, jobs, household needs, volunteer commitments, etc.) it can be easy to prioritize something else and let our partners take the back burner.

Traditionally the eighth year anniversary gift is pottery or bronze, but this month I'm hoping we can give each other a little extra time.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Shark Week (A Simple Summer Theme)

So although we were headed on vacation a few weeks ago, I thought it would be fun to have a Simple Summer Theme we could still explore. As we were at the ocean we went with a theme that matched - Shark Week!

I packed a few things I figured we might do in between trips to the beach and in case of bad weather. But, we had such a great week exploring a new place, hanging at the beach, and enjoying some amazing weather that we barely got to any of the activities.

Instead although we got to a few activities fit in on the trip instead we wound up having something closer to a "Shark Day" when we got home from vacation. But it was a great way to come back home and unwind from the trip.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Desert Week (A Simple Summer Theme)

So when Big Brother requested a "Desert Week" in our Simple Summer Theme series, I was a little stumped on what we might do for projects and activities.

But, in the end I was excited about some of the different projects and materials we were able to explore. (Although this was a slightly shorter theme week.)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Kids Cook: Jam Thumbprint Cookies

It's been a while since we shared one of our Kids Cook posts, although the boys still enjoy helping me cook and bake on a regular basis. That's why we're excited to participate in the Summer 2016 A-Z Cooking with Kids Blog Hop hosted by 3 Princess and 1 Dude.
Almost 20 bloggers have come together to share different recipes that kids can either create on their own or create with a bit of grown up help. In fact - there 26 recipes kids can create- one for each letter of the alphabet! 

We had the letter J - which instantly made me think of JAM. And as we love cookies we decided to try our hand at Jam Thumbprint Cookies

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Desert Animals Sensory Bin

A few weeks ago as we explored our Simple Summer Theme - Desert Week- we knew it would be a great week for some sensory play!

This was especially true when a new sensory material arrived from Sands Alive! for us to explore. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Paint on Sandpaper

This was a fun and easy activity we did a few weeks ago for "Desert Week." I will admit that Big Brother chose Desert Week and I was a little stumped on what to do for the week. We came up with several fun ideas. When this idea came to me and proved to be both easy and fun - painting on sandpaper.

We used this idea for "Desert Week" but I could see you this also as a great activity as a "beach" project. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Keep Summer Simple (July 2016)

We're almost a week into July, and just posting our monthly goals  . . . but that fits perfectly with our focus for the next month: Keep Summer Simple.

For whatever reason, this summer I'm feeling the need for us to keep it simple - slow it down and just enjoy the best parts of this season in our part of the world. The temperatures are warm, the world is green, the swimming is perfect, and the gardens are begin to burst with fresh veggies and fruit. It's one of the best times of year to live in New England. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Science Week (A Simple Summer Theme)

This summer we were excited to kick off our Simple Summer Themes with Science Week! Each week of summer vacation we explore a different "theme." We use materials on hand, simple/easy projects that don't take long to complete, hands on activities, recipes, and field trips.

This summer, even more than previous summers, we're truly keeping our themes simple. We're doing something fun with them when we want to, but also making sure we have lots of time for free play and spontaneous summer fun too.

Our first week proved to be a great kick off to the summer as it was exactly what the boys needed - something a little fun that fit into our other summer activities. They loved Science Week so much, they are requesting a lot more Science over the summer!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Magnetic Sensory Bin

As we went through out Simple Summer Theme Science Week, we enjoyed a variety of hands on science activities. This one was very easy to put together and proved to be lots of fun for the boys!

I wanted to put together a sensory bin that explored a scientific concept, but wasn't quite sure what would work. Then the idea of using our growing magnet set seemed like an easy fit!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The 101 Coolest Simple Science Experiments (Book Review)

Earlier this year we were pretty excited to receive a copy of the newest book from the founders of the amazing online resource Kids Activities Blog.  It was a wonderful surprise to discover the 101 coolest science experiments waiting for us in our mailbox one day!

The 101 Coolest Simple Science Experiments
(A Book Review)

In the past we've had the chance to review another book from the same authors, 101 kids activities that are the bestest, funest ever and we loved the fun and new ideas we pulled from that book. These authors yet again proved they can put together a fantastic resource for parents, teachers, and caregivers!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Wildflower Color Science

This week we kicked off our Simple Summer Themes with Science Week. We've had a blast with a variety of science experiments and explorations, all using materials we have on hand.  For this experiment we were inspired to use something from nature: wildflowers.

I love that this time of year both in the yard and along the roads, flowers are blooming. The boys and I went for a walk the other day and collected several different varieties of white wildflowers with the classic flower dyeing experiment in mind. We were curious to see how it worked with wildflowers. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Easy Pool Party Cupcakes & Pool Party Ideas

You may have noticed we've been a little quiet on our posts this month. The school year wrapped up in such a whirlwind it took just about all my energy to keep us moving through it. And while we've been quiet here online, we've actually still been pretty busy as a family. End of school year events, barbecues, a friends' wedding, Father's Day . . .

Despite the busyness, one thing we really wanted to do to kick off summer was to have a small "pool" party in the backyard. While our pool is not officially large (we purchased an Intex Pool 12ft by 30in this spring) the boys are pretty excited about it none the less.

So as promised, on the first Friday of our summer vacation we invited several friends and their parents over, set out snacks and cupcakes, put some other fun toys out in the yard, and kicked off summer in full pool party style. 

These cupcakes turned out so fun, I couldn't help but share them! And make sure you check out our other fun tips for a fun and successful backyard pool party. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

40+ Backyard Art Projects & Activities

Earlier this week we posted about how one of our summer hopes is to just spend time enjoying our backyard. We also enjoy creating art both in the backyard and on our back deck. Sometimes we use the materials as is in the yard and sometimes we collect materials we want to create with. Other times the project is just so messy that the only place I want to do it is outside . . . even though I love a good, messy project.

As we get ready for summer we've put together a post of more than 40 ideas of art projects you can either do in the yard or after playing outside.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Enjoy the Backyard (June 2016 Monthly Goals)

This spring a big focus for us as a family has been getting the backyard ready for summer. We're pretty blessed to already have a large backyard, but this spring it's gone from a fun place to play to a pretty kid focused yard.

One of our motivations has been that this summer (in addition to visiting some of our favorite local spots) I really want to spend time just relaxing, at home in our yard. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Lilac Scented Playdough

I love the sweet smell of lilacs in the spring time, but it always seems like the flowers last for such a short time.  We wait through early spring and by the time they open it's usually hot enough that they don't last for long.

So to savor the smell a little longer, I made up a batch of Lilac Scented Playdough! We still love a cooked playdough and used our basic cooked playdough recipe as a base for this batch. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Wet Chalk Exploration

Sometimes we create art because we want a finished product, and sometimes we explore it for the process. This art exploration was one we stumbled across, but we loved enough that we'll do it again.

I loved that not only was it colorful, creative, and hands on in many different ways, but it also became collaborative.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Summer Fun in the Upper Valley (VT/NH)

For quite a while now I've hoped to start sharing some family activity resources for the New England area. So with summer on the horizon it seemed like a great time to start sharing!

For this post we're focusing on summer activities in the Upper Valley region. The Upper Valley area is the Vermont and New Hampshire towns which border the Connecticut River. Visitors may be coming to the area for Dartmouth College, Dartmouth Hitchcock, the Vermont Law School, several local lakes, or favorite tourist stops like Woodstock and Quechee, VT. For many of us in the area, this is also the place we call home. Whether you're visiting or you live here, it's likely that at some point in the near future you'll be looking for something to do as a family.

We've collected some of our favorite places (and a few places we hope to get to) below.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Nutella Teddy Bear Snacks

We always love finding fun ways to create snacks. We invented these Nutella Teddy Bear snacks one night after dinner, and they've become a big hit since then.

What's fun about these is they can be used either as a dessert or an after school snack!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Painting Water Beads

Back in April (yes, April!) we soaked a batch of water beads for small world play in the sensory table. Amazingly, the beads are still in great shape. We've just continued to add a little fresh water every so often. But the other day someone left the top off and it rained (our table is out on the deck.) The beads became pretty huge and it was clear they're pretty close to the end of their timeframe.

Before we got rid of them, I wanted to try and get a little more fun out of them, which led to this art exploration: painting water beads.

This was a great deck activity, or could also easily be done inside. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Photograph Paper Plate Flowers

Every year it's fun to think of something handmade and sweet we can make for the "grandmothers" for Mother's Day. But, we usually have to wait a little bit to share the project as my mom regularly reads our posts. (Proof that moms never stop supporting you, no matter your age or endeavor.)

We made these photograph paper plate flowers to decorate our Mother's Day gifts last weekend, and I just love how they turned out. Although we made them at home, this could be an easy classroom project too! 

In fact, the former preschool teacher in me would love to see a whole bulletin board of these in a classroom. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Fingerprint Athletes

In the past we've had fun doing different fingerprint art projects, like these fingerprint teacher bookmarks. We've also shared how to make fingerprint thank you cards, along with other fun fingerprint ideas. This was a fun extension project that also used some of our newest foam stickers: create fingerprint athletes.

We used our fingerprint athlete pictures as thank you cards, but they would also make really fun comic strips! 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Heart in Hand (Homemade Card)

If you follow us on Instagram you might have noticed the quick picture last week of lots of colorful handprint paintings covering our kitchen tabletops. We were busy creating thank you cards for Teacher Appreciation Week.

I love how simple this card idea came out, and it would be perfect for not just teacher appreciation cards, but also Mother's Day, Father's Day, thank you cards, and Valentine's Day. They didn't take very long to put together either, which is especially great if you want to make a whole batch of them.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Remembering to Celebrate Mom Wins (May 2016 Monthly Goals)

So today I forgot my boss' birthday . . . 

I should mention that I was supposed to be his "birthday buddy" and bring in a treat for the whole staff to share . . .

I should also mention that I work in a pretty small town, with one small store, and no bakery  . . .

So forgetting meant no treat for a happy staff to share. Forgetting meant totally having to own up to it. And, for me, forgetting the birthday treat completely ties into my monthly goals I'd hoped to set for May. (Only those too, like the chocolate cake currently baking in my oven, are coming a little late this month.)